The new position of animal services director will report directly to County Administrator Eric Linton.
Previously, the animal control managerial position reported to Tim Hussey, who is responsible for the county landfill and fleet division.
In the position for less than a month, Smith has already set some lofty goals.
“I want to provide Douglas County with a shelter and program their community can be proud of,” he stated.
The Missouri native brings 33 years experience in the animal welfare field, coming from the city of St. Joseph where he ran what he described as “a very progressive animal shelter.”
Smith also served as president of Missouri’s animal control association.
He said that he accepted the position in Douglas County “because I felt I had the expertise to pick up with what the staff had started here.”
“I have been very impressed by the compassion of the employees, volunteers and community,” Smith said.
His philosophy is “a humane life or a humane death.”
Over the last year, Douglas County’s animal euthanasia rate dropped from 40 to 18 percent due to new policies and better marketing of shelter adoptions.
“If one person saves one animal,” said Smith, “it makes a difference to that animal.”
Smith plans to increase education of the front-line employees, as well as ramp up marketing of the shelter’s four-legged residents.
Animal overpopulation due to owners failing to have their pets spayed and neutered remains a constant problem, not only locally, but everywhere, he said.
“The burden has been placed on us by irresponsible pet owners,” Smith said. “We’ve got to get the public involved in resolving the problem.”
Smith would like to see local legislation approved to require animals to be altered before they leave the shelter.
“You contribute to the problem when you release animals before they have been neutered,” he said.
Other goals include increasing response time to complaints and increasing the level of customer service at the animal shelter.
While in St. Joseph, Smith initiated a program for children called Now I Know, which taught kids how to care for animals.
The “elephant” in the room is the knowledge from Commission Chairman Tom Worthan that the county needs a new animal shelter.
“The shelter is outdated,” acknowledged Smith, “and we’ll make the best of the situation until a new shelter gets funded.”